On a stunning Autumn day I travelled to a quaint winery in the heart of the golden New England countryside for the wedding of my dear friends Stacey and Robbie.
Trees ablaze with leaves in vibrant red, warm orange and Autumn green lined the gravel driveway to the guesthouse. My tyres made a soft crunching sound as I quietly parked my car after an achingly long journey from the city.
The ceremony took place in the beautifully manicured gardens of Peterson's Winery, where I witnessed rows of dark timber chairs lined up in wide arcs surrounding the bridal party.
Not long after I arrived, rain fell briefly before the sunshine broke through the dark clouds in proud rays, enhancing every colour as far as the eye could see.
Nature's confetti showered down in the form of rich amber leaves as the happy couple were photographed nearby on the soft grass.
Stacey and I met through the local newspaper, where she had advertised her spare room for rent during my second year of university. We were both twenty years of age and it was my first time living away from home or the confines of student accommodation at the university apartments. I was immediately struck by the spacious size of her home, the welcoming country furniture and ornate metal sculptures of long, lean dancers.
The house itself was fairly old but had barely been lived in and was kept immaculately clean by Stacey and her then boyfriend (now husband), Robbie, whom I met later. Stacey and I realised barely minutes into my 'housemate interview' that we had both lived in the same town during our senior high school years, though we attended rival schools and worked in rival jewellery stores. Further to this coincidence, we were both currently enrolled at the same university and had taken up part-time jobs in town for separate jewellery stores, again. Robbie transported heavy loads in semi-trailers over long distances between Brisbane and Melbourne, so he was away a lot of the time so I had plenty of time to get to know Stacey.
For the next few months we grew to become close friends, we laughed at the same jokes, cooked at home together, wore facial mud masks during girlie nights in, and allocated specific weeknights to watching The Amazing Race with a bottle of wine. We both criticised or 'bagged out' The Bachelor for obvious reasons, despite finding ourselves watching it together on several occasions (predictable nonsense, yet captivating after two glasses of red). We even had a dark laugh at Stacey's wedding about the unfortunate 'humane mouse trap' she had purchased to capture the small, sneaky nocturnal flour bag muncher that terrorised us for weeks during the winter time. We figured the humane mouse trap operated on a catch-and-release principle, that was until one day I returned home to find a trail of black ants leading out of the mouse trap and discovered the finest print EVER possible actually stated, 'Human Mouse Trap. Kills one Mouse'. We were pretty down about that for a while, I think we even had a bottle of wine one night to drown our mouse murdering sorrows but now we can see a little bit of humour in it (ALWAYS read the fine print).
As house mates we studied, and saved like crazy. Stacey saved for a house and new car, whilst I madly saved for my first trip to Europe, which I embarked on several months after my twenty-first birthday. It was at this time that Stacey, Robbie and myself sadly parted ways for a while. Stace always sends me a text message on my birthday and a few years they've made the trip to my house for Christmas lunch. Good friends are like diamonds, hard to find, precious and worth so much you can't bear to lose them.
It was such a privilege for me to join them for their wedding, and to crash this wedding photo...
Once a break in the sky appeared following the light rain, the bridesmaids gathered Stacey's dress and the five of them tip-toped across the wet grass for more photo opportunities, destined for the future wedding album.
I loved watching the bridesmaids giggle like young girls as they watched the bride and groom laugh throughout their wedding portraits.
Meanwhile, guests dined on h'orderves, small sweet pumpkin quiches and tiny pancakes covered with cream cheese flavoured with dill and topped with salty pink salmon.
Before the afternoon sun dipped lower in the golden sky, guests sipped wine by the welcoming fire in The Cellar Door, which had been restored from the horse stables and I snuck into the dining room to capture a few pictures of the elegant, handmade decorations.
Ornate table numbers had been carefully created by Stacey's mother from pearly pastel coloured buttons...
Clear, cool glass bottles of every imaginable shape and size were arranged in elegant groups on the table. Each bottle contained a single freshly cut green stem topped with white roses...
The soft peppermint coloured white chocolate and berry wedding cake stood impressively atop a small table at the end of the hall and was adorned with white butterflies, strings of beads made from icing and a delicate edible flower arrangement that looked so soft and fragile that I wasn't sure if we should eat it or admire it for hours.
The bride wore an ivory antique gown, covered in the finest lace and carefully tailored by Stacey's mother to feature the addition of delicate lace sleeves.
The bouquets was fashioned from material flowers and antique brooches that had been collected with the bridal bouquet creation specifically in mind.
The wedding party gathered around the expansive covered verandah that wrapped around the beautiful guesthouse waiting patiently for another light shower to ease before Stacey and Robbie posed for their first toast as husband and wife.
As the chilly late afternoon air silently crept around us, I returned to the verandah to admire the white cane chairs and broad timber floors.
White lace parasols, momentarily forgotten by the bridesmaids leaned gingerly against a brick wall beside an antique suitcase near the doors of the elegant dining hall.
In a final impressive burst of light, the last of the sun's rays danced through the French windows at the end of the verandah and with this in mind, I made a dash for the old tree by The Cellar Door to capture some final images of the amber leaves before the freezing, inky black night air enveloped the vineyard.
After a short while I could not bare the cold any longer without my icy fingers shaking and my lips changing a faint tint of blue. I skipped back to the dining hall to be welcomed by the flickering red flames of a roaring fire in the old fireplace beside our dining table.
The gentle hum of the conversations around us filled the dining hall with a friendly ambience, that was better enhanced by the soft flicker of candlelight.
For my main, I dined on crispy pork belly, served on a bed of sweet caramelised onion and beets and soft seared scallops, fresh from the sea.
It was a long day for some...
For dessert the wedding cake was served on shiny white plates. My generous slice was moist and sweet and accompanied by a dark berry sauce, which was softened by a cool spoonful of vanilla bean cream.
We danced into the early hours of the morning, until I sleepily embraced the happy couple and parted ways.
What a wonderful Autumn day to spend with dear friends and not a minute too soon to share with you as it will be Winter as soon as tomorrow.
I wonder what sweet Winter delights I will cook this year?
Meet you back here soon...